During a panel discussion on Tuesday's NBC Today about President Obama being interrupted by a reporter during a Friday speech on immigration, even liberal pundit Donny Deutsch didn't buy veteran newsman Sam Donaldson claiming the incident was racially motivated: "Sam Donaldson in response said he thought that some of this was racially driven....I didn't see that..."
Fellow panelist and Today co-host Kathie Lee Gifford said of Donaldson's remark: "Yeah, I wish he hadn't said that."
Deutsch did try to spin the Rose Garden exchange as a plus for Obama: "By the way, it was a great opportunity for the President to look presidential and scold him [the reporter]."
Fellow Today co-host Hoda Kotb commented that the reporter should have waited until the President "fields questions" but added: "I do think the press corps should be aggressive...I think that you can go for it."
Later, co-host Matt Lauer pointed to the British government as evidence of political leaders being interrupted regularly: "Have you ever been across the pond and watched a session of Parliament? And what they do with their leaders? They don't let them get a word out edgewise and they're harumphing them and haranguing them and all that stuff."
Here is a full transcript of the June 19 exchange:
7:01AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: Also we're going to ask this question: Is it ever appropriate to interrupt the President of the United States? That question is getting a lot of attention after a reporter for an online website repeatedly interrupted President Obama during a speech last week. We're going to tell you what that reporter is now saying about the incident and talk about the whole concept and dynamic with Today's Professionals.
ANN CURRY: I'm sure they have a lot to say about that.
8:09AM ET TEASE:
CURRY: And coming up, we're going to be addressing the question, is it ever okay to interrupt the president?
8:11AM ET SEGMENT:
LAUER: We're back now at 8:11 with Today's Professionals. Here to chew over the hottest stories of the day, Donny Deutsch, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, and pinch hitting for Star Jones this morning, two people, Kathie Lee and Hoda.
KATHIE LEE GIFFORD: It takes two.
LAUER: Good morning, nice to see you folks. Alright, let's start with a story that developed over the last week or so. The President, President Obama, on the lawn of the White House giving remarks or a speech about an immigration policy when a reporter for Daily Caller, which is a conservative website, interrupted him in the middle of his speech. Here's part of the exchange.
BARACK OBAMA: It is the right thing to do. Excuse me, sir. It's not time for questions, sir, not while I'm speaking....And the answer to your question, sir – and the next time I prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question – is this is the right thing to do for the American people. I didn't ask for an argument, I'm answering your question.
LAUER: Alright, so this was not during a Q & A, this was during a speech. Neil Munro of Daily Caller interrupted him. So let's start with the basic question, is it ever okay to interrupt the President of the United States?
NANCY SNYDERMAN: Not in the Rose Garden, not in a formal occasion.
HODA KOTB: Yeah, he was giving – he was making a speech. I think when he's done with it and he fields questions, yes. But I do think the press corps should be aggressive.
KOTB: I mean, I think that you can go for it. But I think that you have to let him finish his statement and then you go in.
SNYDERMAN: Well, Sam Donaldson was considered aggressive when he was at ABC News and I was there at the time. But he waited while the President was walking to the chopper...
SNYDERMAN: ...it was a public forum, not in a formal situation like the Rose Garden.
DEUTSCH: Yeah, I don't – it's never, I don't care in any situation, to interrupt. We've got to keep that office up here. And it may be a function of that sometimes we are so over-media-ed, the president is everywhere, that people, including the profess – including the press, can forget that pedestal. But clearly wrong.
LAUER: You say you're going to keep the office up here. Have you ever been across the pond and watched a session of Parliament?
SNYDERMAN: Yeah, it's quite rowdy, and yeah.
LAUER: And what they do with their leaders? They don't let them get a word out edgewise and they're harumphing them and haranguing them and all that stuff. It's just a different system?
DEUTSCH: Yes, it's a different world. But interestingly, Sam Donaldson in response said he thought that some of this was racially driven, if their was a white president-
GIFFORD: Yeah, I wish he hadn't said that. I mean-
DEUSTCH: I didn't see that either.
LAUER: Tucker Carlson, who founded The Daily Caller, the website, says he is proud of Neil Munro, his reporter...
SNYDERMAN: Of course Tucker's proud.
LAUER: ...and that it is a reporter's job to ask questions and get answers.
GIFFORD: Respectfully. Respectfully. I think the President showed more respect for him by calling him "sir" three times.
DEUTSCH: By the way, it was a great opportunity for the President to look presidential and scold him.